Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: England and France, 1413-1415
First Sentence: On a winter's day in 1413, just before Christmas, Nicholas Hook decided to commit murder.
Nicholas Hook is an English archer. He is a very good archer. In the 15th century, the English longbow was the leading edge military technology. Previously, knights in armor were the greatest form of military might. However, it was extremely expensive to outfit and train a knight. So only a few wealthy warriors became knights. In contrast, it was much less expensive to train archers.
Due to a family feud, Nick is declared outlaw. He joins a mercenary archer troop and goes to war in France. There he survives the massacre of the English by the French at the battle of Soissons.
When he returns to England he joins Sir John Cornewaille's company. Sir John gives Nicholas a more complete warrior's training. Sir John's company then joins King Henry V to invade France. There they lay siege to the castle at Harfleur. King Henry believes that he is the rightful king of France. He wants to have a great battle with the French so that he can take possession of the the French throne. After the fall of Harfleur, Henry marches through France toward Calais. The two armies meet at Agincourt.
The battle of Agincourt is considered one of the pivotal battles between England and France. The English army of about 6,000 challenged a French army of about 30,000. The French army consisted of mostly knights and men-at-arms, while the English had more than 4,000 archers. The English army defeats the French.
Cornwall's novel follows Nicholas Hood's adventures as an archer in the 15th century. Cornwell realistically describes the horrors and depredations of life in a medieval military campaign. He describes the violence of the battles, and filth of life in those old days.
I liked this book. Cornwall stays close to the actual historic events of those times. The plot lines of Nicholas's family feud, and his relationship with Melisande are believable. Sometimes, novels based on historical events can be dry. In my opinion, authors can try to impress the reader with the depth of their research. Cornwell avoids this and has created an enjoyable historical novel.
A nice touch was the nod to Shakespeare that Cornwell includes in this novel. He has King Henry visit the archer's camp in disguise to discuss the imminent battle. This scene also is in Shakespeare's play "Henry V".
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